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Where Things Work

In our recently released “Retire Overseas Index,” we make the point that your choice as to where to retire overseas must be localized, for you are not going to retire to a country but to a specific spot within that country.

Still, some factors are, indeed, country-relevant. Infrastructure is one of these.

In fact, infrastructure is relevant both for any country you might consider and, as well, for any localized spot within that country. The infrastructure in Panama overall is of a high standard, higher than anywhere else in the region. However, the infrastructure in Panama City is considerably more developed than that in Mariato, a small town on the western coast of the Azuero Peninsula.

For this reason, we consider infrastructure twice in our Retire Overseas Index, first for the country in question and again for the thin-sliced spot we’re highlighting.

In the context of the country overall, we take into account access to North America and the number and standard of international airports; roads; availability of public transportation; telecommunications (cell phones and internet); and construction standards in general and specifically to do with the sewage systems.

For each localized spot, we consider localized public transit; access to the rest of the country; localized telecommunications; and local construction standards. Generally, for this category, we try to answer the following question for each destination being highlighted: Do things work here?

We award the following countries top scores (that is, “A’s”) in this category:

  • Argentina
  • Colombia
  • France
  • Malaysia
  • Uruguay

France probably requires no explanation, but you may be surprised by the other countries on this list. Bottom line, these are all countries where, as I suggested above, things work…where it’s easy to get to the country and to get around inside it once you’re there…where telecommunications are reliable and you can count on getting an internet connection and signal for your cell phone…where the garbage is collected reliably…the sewage systems do their thing…etc.

However, while France deserves an “A” for infrastructure overall, the Languedoc (thinking locally) gets a “B.” In all France, you’ll enjoy First World-standard services and support; however, the Languedoc is a relatively small region. This isn’t Paris, and you can’t expect all the infrastructure of, say, Paris. It does, though, have four airports connecting to the United Kingdom, Ireland, and continental Europe; high-speed trains to Bezier from Paris and on to Barcelona or Toulouse and Bordeaux; and good local bus service.

On the other hand, we give not only Colombia but also Medellin; not only Uruguay but also Costa de Oro; and not only Argentina but also Mendoza top scores for infrastructure.

Also note that, in four cases, we award “A’s” to the specific destination we’re highlighting in our index even though the country where that destination is found gets a lower infrastructure score. Specifically, we give the following spots top marks but their respective countries “B’s,” because, while in the localized spot we’re recommending the infrastructure is top-notch and reliable, that’s not the case elsewhere in this country:

  • Cuenca, Ecuador
  • Hua Hin, Thailand
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

The big loser in the infrastructure category is Belize. We give the country an “F.” We give both Ambergris Caye and Cayo failing grades, as well. Big picture or small, there’s no two ways about it: The infrastructure in Belize is limited. In most of the country, you might say it’s non-existent.

On the face of it, that’d seem a good reason to take Belize off any top retirement havens list, wouldn’t it? Why, then, do we include it on ours? Because, in Belize, an utter lack of First World infrastructure is part of the charm…part of the appeal. For many, this is precisely the reason they seek Belize out.

I’m exaggerating a little. The infrastructure in Belize is not non-existent. There are roads in this country, for example three of them. There is an international airport, of course. Unfortunately, it sits in Belize City, one of the least appealing cities in the world. There are hospitals, but, as I’ve mentioned, you may prefer to go to Mexico or even Miami for care. There is internet but no Skype; the country’s monopoly phone company won’t allow it.

On the other hand and perhaps at least in part because the country is as under-developed as it is Belize is the best place I know to leave the rest of the world behind and embrace a back-to-basics lifestyle, what might be called the “resilient life.” Retirees interested in self-sufficient living should put Belize at the top of their lists. Belize has all the infrastructure you need, including and especially an abundance of sunshine, fresh water, and fertile land.

Kathleen Peddicord

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